According to some theories in the science of sleep, sleep recuperates the body and refreshes the mind, but exactly how is not that clear yet. Despite its mundanity, sleep still resists scientific explanations today.
The Science of Sleep
Researchers are always on the quest to paint a complete picture of why people sleep. Many researches and tests have been carried out overtime, to inquire into what goes on in the brain and body when people sleep. Scientists keep hoping to discover any evolutionary insight on the reasons for sleep. Some recent studies have suggested that sleep can be explained as an adaptation of the body for saving energy. This explanation too doesn’t seem to add up. It still keeps scientists skeptical on whether saving energy is the only or main reason that has evolved sleep.
Getting extremely fatigued is the only time when sleep really pulls hard at humans, like a wave sweeping up the mind and taking consciousness away. How the body controls these “sleep-wake” transitions lies in the heart of sleep disorders (such as narcolepsy, insomnia, etc.). As researches show, chronic sleep deprivations pose to be more serious risks to the health.
Science of Sleep and Forty Winks
People often face problems waking up or staying awake. For example; people tend to hit the snooze button of their alarm clocks several times before finally waking up. It often becomes very difficult to get composed and leave home for work. Sometimes it takes extra cups of coffee to make it through the day. People also tend to fall into naps on their desks during work hours, only to awaken and feel embarrassed to be spotted by a senior or the boss! These are all signs of sleep deficiencies, which lead to various problems that people most often overlook.
People feel like the hours of a day are not enough to complete chores and tasks, so they cheat on sleep in an effort to cut the sleeping time to get some work done. If looked at from the ‘science of sleep’ aspect, it can be said that sleep deprivation has actually evolved into an epidemic of sorts.
Sleep Paralysis/Being Awake In Nightmares
Here is a scenario; a person hears a noise in the middle of the night, and wakes up. The person tries to move, but realizes that the body is paralyzed. While in bed, the person is completely conscious, and realizes that weird things are going on around. The person has woken up into the ‘dream world’. This may sound like the scene of a horror movie, starring Lili Taylor. It is a typical description of a true medical condition called “sleep paralysis”.
It is a strange phenomenon in which people find themselves awake in a dream for a second or may be a minute, and often experience scary hallucinations. Researches strongly suggest that this condition is related to REM sleep. Sleep disorders such as jet lag, shift work, overtiredness, sleep deprivation and irregular sleep habits are all predisposing factors to sleep paralysis. This may be because these factors disrupt the sleep-wake cycles.
People tend to think about the elements of various sleep stages in a combined way. So, in REM sleep, people are unconscious and experience a variety of sensory experiences in which almost all the muscles in the body are paralyzed. This is called atonia. In sleep paralysis, there are two REM sleep components present, in which people are not unconscious.
According to the science of sleep, narcolepsy is also associated with sleep paralysis, as they both have a similar pathology. For people suffering of narcolepsy, some of the elements of REM can arise for no particular reason.
Sleep paralysis was first identified in 1876, by a scientific community psychologist; Weir Mitchell. He gave a good description of how it works by saying that the subject wakes to the consciousness of his environment, but is unable to move a muscle, lying to all in appearance as being asleep. The subject is engaged in a struggle to move and fraught with acute mental agony, but cannot manage to stir. If the subject just stirs even a bit, the spell paralyzing the subject would instantly vanish.
Sleep paralysis existed in folklore long before it was put up as a subject to semi-rigorous studies. The various responses on it fascinated researchers and were catalogued in a book called “Tall Tales About the Mind and Brain”. The problem was termed as “kanashibar” in Japan, “ghost oppression” in China, and “the old hag” in Newfoundland.
An REM element mixed with the minds consciousness not only sounds scary, but is also terrifying. People wake up with an uneasy evil feeling, feeling as though there is something present in the room they cannot see. People experience true terror, due to which the body gets paralyzed when the person tries to move or get away. The good news is, the science of sleep suggests that it rarely persists for long and is not life threatening.